Severe Mental Illness and Dismantling Mental Health Barriers: Culturally Responsive Strategies for Supporting Asian Americans

This workshop will present a detailed description of severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia spectrum disorders and review their impact and current findings among Asian American individuals and families. An in-depth discussion of prevalent barriers to mental healthcare among Asian American communities will be provided, such as mental health stigma and misinformation. Prevailing myths and misconceptions about schizophrenia, psychotropic medications, and psychotherapy will be explored and reviewed. Strategies will be provided on micro, mezzo, and macro levels for behavioral health practitioners, clinical social workers, community advocates, academic researchers, and family members and loved ones regarding supporting Asian American individuals with severe mental illness and de-stigmatizing mental health at large. Techniques for treatment engagement, initiating and receiving services, contributing to community anti-stigma efforts, and other suggestions for engaging with Asian American clients on multiple levels in social work practice will be provided.
What will participants learn?

  • Detailed overview and information about severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia spectrum disorders
  • Exploration of prevalent barriers to mental healthcare such as mental health stigma and their impact on Asian American communities
  • Myths and misconceptions about prevailing stereotypes and misinformation about severe mental illness, psychotropic medication, and psychotherapy
  • Strategies for building trust and engaging with Asian American clients with severe mental illness in therapy, including for clients with anosognosia (lack of insight)
  • Suggestions for supporting Asian American families impacted by severe mental illness on community, research, and organizational levels
  • Resources for schizophrenia spectrum disorders

Who should attend?

  • Behavioral health providers, professionals, and trainees
  • Asian American social workers and community leaders
  • Community members interested in learning more about mental health
  • Asian American local and community-based organizations
  • Academic researchers and scholars interested in areas of Asian diaspora mental health
  • Family members, friends, and colleagues who may know someone impacted by severe mental illness


This event has passed. You can watch the replay on our YouTube, or here on the website.

Workshop Presenters

Juliann Li Verdugo (she/her) is a licensed clinical social worker and a trilingual first-generation Chinese American from San Diego, California. She is currently a Ph.D. student studying social welfare at the University of Washington, focusing on research areas of racial and ethnic health disparities, Asian American and Latinx mental health, severe mental illness, and culturally responsive service delivery.


Juliann received a Bachelor of Science in clinical psychology from the University of California at San Diego (2017) and a Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan (2019). She has led and contributed to various research projects focused on topics including schizophrenia spectrum disorders, psychosis, caregivers of individuals with severe mental illness, and intervention development and testing.


Prior to starting her doctoral education, Juliann worked for over 3 years as a clinician with a group practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan, providing outpatient psychotherapy services to adults of color. She also served as the project coordinator for a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)-funded grant conducting community-based participatory research on suicide prevention for adults with schizophrenia in a community mental health setting.


On a personal level, Juliann loves traveling, walking in nature, playing video games such as The Legend of Zelda, and spending time with her husky Strider. She is excited to collaborate with the ‘Ohana team and looks forward to her future work with Asian diaspora organizations and communities.

We Need to Talk About It: Stigma, Shame, and the Importance of Conversations about Mental Health and Suicide Prevention in AANHPI Families and Communities

This webinar will explore issues that constrain AANHPIs from talking about mental health and suicide and ways we can address these concerns. We will consider how the model minority myth, health disparities, and cultural mismatch of services and interventions impact AANHPIs’ ability to start conversations about mental health and suicide prevention with our families, friends, and in our communities. We will consider the importance of cultural humility when addressing mental health concerns, especially cross-culturally and strategies to break the silence around these critical issues.


What will you learn in this workshop?

  • Some of the issues that constrain AANHPIs from addressing mental health and suicide in our communities including the impact of the model minority myth, social determinants of health, and cultural framing of mental health concerns.
  • The importance of cultural humility in MH and suicide prevention work
  • Strategies and considerations when addressing MH in AANHPI communities


Who is this workshop for?

  • Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community members
  • AANHPI allies and advocates
  • Behavior health professionals

This event has passed. You can watch the replay on our YouTube, or here on the website.

Workshop Presenters


Dr. Pata Suyemoto is a feminist scholar, writer, educator, curriculum developer, equity trainer, mental health activist, jewelry designer, and avid bicyclist. She earned her PhD. from the University of Pennsylvania and did her research on anti-racist education and issues of race and racism. She is the Training Director for the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association (NAAPIMHA) and a master trainer for NAAPIMA’s Achieving Whole Health Program.

Pata is the director of the National Asian American Pacific Islander Empowerment Network, which is a network of Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) with lived-experience related to mental health concerns. She is the Associate Director of Equity for the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention (MCSP) and the co-chair of the Greater Boston Regional Suicide Prevention Coalition. Pata is also founder and co-chair of the MCSP Alliance for Equity and one of the authors of Widening the Lens: Exploring the Role of Social Justice in Suicide Prevention – A Racial Equity Toolkit.

She has spoken and written about being a suicide attempt survivor and her struggles with chronic depression and complex PTSD. She is a co-founder of The Breaking Silences Project, which is an artistic endeavor that educates about the high rates of depression and suicide among Asian American young women. Pata is a member of a number of boards and committees including the MCSP’s Executive Committee, the planning committee for the annual Asian American Mental Health Forum, and MGH CARE Trustees. Her claim to fame is that she rode her bicycle across the country in the summer of 2012.

AHA News: Asian and Pacific Islander Adults Less Likely to Get Mental Health Services Despite Growing Need

WEDNESDAY, May 25, 2022 (American Heart Association News) — Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, FBI data shows that people of Asian descent increasingly have been targets of racially motivated attacks.

“Hate crimes have spilled over to affect the community in dramatic ways. People feel scapegoated and blamed for the pandemic,” said Dr. Howard Kyongju Koh, the Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

That has fueled a rise in anxiety and depression in a population that is already one of the least likely to access much-needed mental health services, according to the nonprofit Mental Health America.

The original article is published on Health Day.